Anthology Film Archives


August 2 – August 17

To mark the end of summer, we present a series that attends to the social and cultural phenomenon that is the suburban shopping mall. At once a sanctuary and a prison, the mall was a fixture of American life (and cinema) in the 20th century. In recent years, it has become a bastion of nostalgia for generations – now steeped in the internet – who long for human interaction, no matter how superficial and mundane. Perhaps it is that very sense of the mundane – rendered charming through time and distance – that has elevated the placidness of the escalator, the sparkling of indoor fountains, and the airy echoes of Muzak into something so beguiling now.

“Shopping Worlds” offers an escape from the August heat with a selection of mall-core classics, including DAWN OF THE DEAD, MALLRATS, and Chantal Akerman’s GOLDEN EIGHTIES. The mall as a spectacle in and of itself – “retail theatre” as it has been called (by none other than a senior vice-president of the Muzak corporation) – is also on full display in NOCTURAMA, THE PHANTOM OF THE MALL, OBSERVE AND REPORT, and CHOPPING MALL. The once legendary locale for “people watching” has become its own focus of discourse, with documentaries like Frederick Wiseman’s THE STORE, Harun Farocki’s THE CREATORS OF SHOPPING WORLDS, and Hugh Kinniburgh’s MALL CITY laying the structural groundwork for a cultural and aesthetic appreciation of the shopping mall by exploring its architectural elaboration, its civic function, and the economic and technological shifts that brought it into being. A more instinctual, niche form of mall mania thrives in the corners of the internet, as both those who grew up at the mall and those who are too young to have experienced its heyday connect over their shared, emotionally-charged preoccupation with dead and decaying shopping malls. In her book “Meet Me by the Fountain: An Inside History of the Mall”, Alexandra Lange, invoking Ray Bradbury’s writings on urban planning, describes the mall as “Somewhere to Go”, an idea that forms a peculiar liminality between human experience and commercial excess.

As shopping (and for that matter, movie watching) increasingly becomes an online, home-bound endeavor, “Shopping Worlds” invites you out, to explore the many different dimensions – historical, cultural, social, and aesthetic – that the mall continues to embody.

Programmed by Anne Hart, John Klacsmann, and Jed Rapfogel.

Special thanks to Brian Belovarac (Janus Films); Bret Berg (AGFA); Yael Bertana; Chris Chouinard (Park Circus); Rebecca Cleman & Karl McCool (Electronic Arts Intermix); Jem Cohen; Tom Colley (Video Data Bank); Nathan Duncan; Harry Guerro; Bob Hunter (Icarus Films); Jason Jackowski (Universal Pictures); Hugh Kinniburgh; Karen Konicek & Erica Hill (Zipporah Films); Soda_Jerk; and K. F. Watanabe (Grasshopper Film).

Kyle Riismandel, cultural historian, Director of the Graduate Program in American Studies at Rutgers-Newark/New Jersey Institute of Technology, and author of “Neighborhood of Fear: The Suburban Crisis in American Culture, 1975-2001” will introduce CHOPPING MALL on Fri, Aug 4. Alexandra Lange, author of “Meet Me by the Fountain: An Inside History of the Mall”, will introduce the screening of THE STORE on Sun, Aug 6.

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